If one cares to read the accounts of the life of Jesus, it quickly becomes obvious that certain events stand out very clearly. The first is his birth, the second his baptism followed by the temptations in the desert, and so on. Similarly, the various initiatory events celebrated in the Church also stand out very clearly. Yet in reality the spiritual life, at least in my experience, is rather different from this clearly cut format. There is no rigidity in the spiritual life that demands every part in the puzzle be in place in a specific order, although it must be said that there is a tendency to pass through major events in a particular order. Obviously, one doesn't get anywhere before a psycho-spiritual nativity, or spiritual awakening is experienced. But there are, even with this birthing, a number of preparatory steps that are required. The living of the spiritual life is rather like experiencing the flow of a river through a delta. Sometimes the river flows this way, sometimes that way; sometimes it seems to flow sluggishly, sometimes with great speed; sometimes it seems to swirl around in eddies getting nowhere. In the end, of course, the river will reach the open waters of the sea.
It is sometimes assumed that an initiation or testing lifts one up to a new level. To achieve that new level seems to require the services of a spiritual mentor, or guru, who will inform one when the time has come to take this rite of passage. But this assumption is incorrect. Now I am not saying that help cannot be obtained from other people. To ignore the wisdom of others would be prideful in the extreme. What I do say is that a public initiation, which seems to me to be little more than theatre, is not necessary for progress to be made. In fact, like any other test or examination satisfactorily passed, all that occurs is a confirmation that a stage or standard has already been attained. That stage can only have been reached through internal work having been successfully undertaken. Progress cannot be achieved on the words or the backs of others. It can only come through one's own experiential awakening. Even the initial spiritual awakening must rely on one's own, inner experiences. As it was pointed out to me, during a pathworking on the journeyings of Jesus in Galilee, that Way was his: it was not my Way. If I am to succeed in my spiritual task of growing ever deeper into truth and awareness, I cannot slavishly follow another. I cannot take on someone else's spiritual experience as if it were my own. I must travel my own journey. For this there is no substitute.
If I were asked to identify one common cause of a need for spiritual awakening, I would name psycho-spiritual trauma. That trauma may be induced, for example, by the physical loss or suffering of someone close to us, or severe injury perhaps. There can be all sorts of reasons, but it is at the level of the spirit that the need for change is felt. It is at that level, when faced with and enduring a traumatic period in our lives, that we come face to face with our essential powerlessness over life's events. If we have the time to attempt to reverse that situation and fail to understand and accept our powerlessness, the damage to the spirit progresses at an ever-increasing rate.
There came a moment, many years ago now, when I had to acknowledge my own powerlessness over the events that were occurring in my life. Not only that, I had to see how my insane - it could hardly be described as anything less than that - losing battle against that state of powerlessness was destroying my inner life. At the end of that, what seemed at the time to be a gruelling and unnecessarily protracted, period of self examination, I was forced by my own reasoning to acknowledge the truth of my very human condition. Then came an unforgettable and overwhelming sense of release.
At the time, of course, I did not see my changed state of awareness as a new birthing into the spirit, imaged much later as a divine nativity. I saw that change simply as my first step upwards out of the abyss into which I had fallen. And I could blame no-one but myself. I had also taken a first step towards taking appropriate responsibility for my actions, and towards dealing with the whole question of blame and guilt. That, however, was a task which still lay in the future.
Admittedly, I have rather skimmed over the surface of the experience of my own spiritual awakening. It might have been the first of such experiences, but it was not to be the last. I doubt that more detail here would helped very much, so I will pass on to consider the next step on the mythological journey to wholeness, the possible passage through the experience of baptism.
And now, finally, and against my usual style of blogging, may I add these three words:-
JE SUIS CHARLIE